Peeling the Onion: Revelation 4

Vision of a Heavenly Court


'Holy, Holy, Holy' -

When you sang it in church worship, did you visualize it? Can you appreciate the Orthodox vision of sharing concurrently in heavenly worship? One throne- with an occupant - four beasts with faces and eyes and wings -24 thrones around it all – with elders (12 tribes, 12 apostles? – what gender are yours?) what's the soundtrack, and what's the vision?

Get it sketched in now, in your mind, and better, on paper, because we'll be back to this stage set, again and again to the vision of worship in heaven, where a mythic celestial opera will unfold. The list of semi-precious stones give you colours (Google it up!) A picture is worth a thousand words…In group studies, I usually provide blank scrolls – And ask people to ‘fill in the blanks’ – It’s amazing the talents in any group,

And even we of little skill can express something – Scale, or relationship among the elements, Perspective through the door of v.1 Imagine Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia’, Described – without video or audio feed – It wouldn’t be the same phenomenon, eh?

There have been lots of attempt to make movies, out of Torah or Gospels, even prophets – And Tim LeHaye’s ‘Left Behind’ series of ‘what if’ here –Or Frank Baum’s ‘Oz’ novels remade to stage and screen. But your vision is your own – Augmented by the hymns, stained glass, oil paintings – The glimpses and fragments of this unified vision. Thank God for that!

The list of semi-precious stones give you colours Greens, reds, purples, emerald, blues – rainbows (Google it up!) The beasts come with hints:“Like” a lion, ox, human-face, eagle – are they scary, or benign?

Join J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, J.K.Rowling: Is your lion like Aslan, or Simba? I do not try to ‘explain’ or interpret now – This is more than casual metaphor, Or magical metaphysical speculation – Northrop Frye used the term ‘metonym’: this is that Our pool of images differs from John’s – I recommend looking for images of Persian satraps – Even the Byzantine through Ottoman aesthetic –But classical Greek and Roman ruins are a start Try to suspend your modern prejudices – Embrace the myths of constellations, The ancient dome-over-a-flat-earth, An animate universe inhabited by first nations, Who could still enchant their universe, Not simply reduce it to ‘upstairs, downstairs’, Heaven above and hell below, Nor relegate it all to the future

I prefer the imaginative universes of fantasy and science fiction, Parallel universes accessed occasionally through worm-holes, Beyond time and space, in additional 5th and 6th dimensions, To approach the way these visions work:

What if…?

New Jerusalem Bible

1 Then, in my vision, I saw a door open in heaven and heard the same voice speaking to me, the voice like a trumpet, saying, 'Come up here: I will show you what is to take place in the future.'

2 With that, I fell into ecstasy and I saw a throne standing in heaven, and the One who was sitting on the throne,

3 and the One sitting there looked like a diamond and a ruby. There was a rainbow encircling the throne, and this looked like an emerald.

4 Round the throne in a circle were twenty-four thrones, and on them twenty-four elders sitting, dressed in white robes with golden crowns on their heads.

5 Flashes of lightning were coming from the throne, and the sound of peals of thunder, and in front of the throne there were seven flaming lamps burning, the seven Spirits of God.

6 In front of the throne was a sea as transparent as crystal. In the middle of the throne and around it, were four living creatures all studded with eyes, in front and behind.

7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second like a bull, the third living creature had a human face, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.

8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was studded with eyes all the way round as well as inside; and day and night they never stopped singing: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God, the Almighty; who was, and is and is to come.'

9 Every time the living creatures glorified and honoured and gave thanks to the One sitting on the throne, who lives for ever and ever,

10 the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves before him to worship the One who lives for ever and ever, and threw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying:

11 You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you made the whole universe; by your will, when it did not exist, it was created.

‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, Vision of Divine Courts

After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’

2At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne!

3And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald.

4Around the throne are twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones are twenty-four elders, dressed in white robes, with golden crowns on their heads.

5Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches, which are the seven spirits of God;

6and in front of the throne there is something like a sea of glass, like crystal. Around the throne, and on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:

7the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with a face like a human face, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle.

8And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come.’

9And whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever,

10the twenty-four elders fall before the one who is seated on the throne and worship the one who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing,

11 ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’